|July 21, 2014|
Previously published on July 18, 2014
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) plans to propose a rule, in the coming days, that imposes new recordkeeping requirements on ground beef processor establishments and retail facilities.
If adopted, this proposed rule would require both processing establishments and retail facilities that grind raw beef products to maintain records that specifically include source materials and the identity of suppliers, as well as any materials carried over from one production lot to the next. FSIS notes that this level of detail is necessary to avoid situations, particularly at the retail level, where the Agency’s attempt to trace back to the source of contaminated product has been prevented or delayed. According to FSIS, the new recordkeeping requirements will enhance the Agency’s trace back capabilities to more efficiently identify the source of contaminated product and initiate recalls, thereby reducing illnesses associated with contaminated ground beef product.
The proposed rule would apply to both official processing establishments and retail-exempt facilities. The application of this proposed rule to retail-exempt facilities is significant. Whereas FSIS maintains a continuous inspection presence at official processing establishments, the Agency does not maintain such a presence at retail-exempt facilities (i.e., grocery stores) that conduct final preparation of meat and poultry products for human consumption. Retail-exempt facilities regularly mix cuts of beef from various sources to make ground beef product. This proposed rule, if finalized, will require such facilities to maintain clear records identifying the source, supplier, and names of all materials used in the preparation of raw ground beef products.
It appears the Agency may be seeking to broaden its regulation of retail-exempt facilities, which have traditionally come under the purview of state and local regulatory authorities. If adopted, this rule could very well set a precedent for the Agency to expand its regulatory activities with regard to retail and grocery facilities that are not currently subject to ongoing federal inspection. Therefore, because this proposed rule represents a new recordkeeping requirement, particularly at the retail and grocery level, such businesses should especially review the details of this proposal.
We recommend that any perceived burdens associated with the proposed recordkeeping requirements be conveyed to FSIS via comments to ensure that practical industry concerns are addressed. Comments to the proposal will be accepted by FSIS for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. We would be happy to answer any questions regarding the FSIS proposal, and discuss the drafting of any comments which could include developing suggested alternative methods of achieving the Agency’s enumerated food safety goal in this proposed rule.